POLSC321: Mideast Politics

Course Syllabus for "POLSC321: Mideast Politics"

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At various points in history, the Middle East has been at the center of world civilization.   In the last century, however, the Middle East has been subjected to the conquest, colonization, and control of outside powers: the Ottoman Empire, the great European powers, and the United States.  This dynamic has had profound implications for the political identity of both Middle Easterners and their conquerors.  It has also meant that much of the recent political history of the Middle East has been a struggle for independence and state-building—a struggle that continues to this day with profound implications for the region and the world as a whole. This course has two primary purposes: (1) to build a critical understanding of the key issues and conflicts in the politics of the modern Middle East and (2) to apply the following concepts to these issues and conflicts: scholarly methodology, colonialism, independence and state-building, the political mobilization of new social classes, the spread of capitalist economic relations, Arab nationalism, relations between the Arab states, the Middle East as an arena of the Cold War, Islamic revivalism, globalization and economic restructuring, democratization, and the significance of non-state actors. These objectives will be pursued beginning with some framing readings and videos on recent developments in the Middle East and on the methods available to understand and analyze those developments.  You will then inquire into the background of these recent developments through study of the political history of various regions of the Middle East and of foreign influence in those regions.  Toward the end of the course, you will return to the most significant issues confronting the region today for a more sustained and, ideally, more critical engagement with them.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the states, bodies of water, and ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East.
  • Summarize and deconstruct the most common stereotypes applied to Muslims and Arabs.
  • Identify the main tenets of Islam and discuss the variety of interpretations and practices common to Islam.
  • Summarize the various patterns of identify formation in the Middle East since WWI, with attention to the influence of colonialism, ethnicity, nationalism, Islam, and Arabism.
  • Identify and summarize the strategies of governance employed by imperial powers and local rulers in the modern Middle East.
  • Identify processes of nation-building, economic liberalization, and democratization in the modern Middle East.
  • Identify and summarize the role that oil has played in the politics of the Middle East.
  • Identify the causes and consequences of the most significant events and political movements in the politics of the modern Middle East.
  • Summarize the origins and purpose of Zionism and the basis of the Palestinian resistance to it.
  • Identify the strategies that Zionists have used to control Israel/Palestine and the strategies that Palestinians have used to resist that control.
  • Summarize the Arab-Israeli peace process.
  • Summarize the role that women’s rights have played in the politics of the modern Middle East.
  • Summarize the foreign policy of the United States and other great powers in the Middle East after the attacks of September 2001.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:
√    Have access to a computer.
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
√    Be competent in the English language.
√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to POLSC321, Mideast Politics.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.
Course Designer: Jason Neidleman, Professor of Political Science, University of La Verne
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online resources.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Pay special attention to Units 1 and 2, as these lay the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material in later units.  You will also need to complete the Final Exam.
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all of the resources in each unit.
In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 131 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete Unit 1 (a total of 4 hours) on Monday night; subunits 2.1 and 2.2 (a total of 4 hours) on Tuesday night; subunits 2.3 and 2.4 (a total of 3.75 hours) on Wednesday night; etc.  
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.